Washington — Bill Taylor, who was until recently the top diplomat in Ukraine, pushed back against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for an assertion he reportedly made in a profanity-laced interaction with a NPR reporter, during which he suggested Americans don't care about the eastern European country.
In an op-ed in The New York Times, Taylor explained why Americans "should care about Ukraine," writing that the country is "the front line" of the battle "between democracies and autocracies, the contest between freedom and unfreedom."
"Until Russia withdraws from Ukraine — both Donbas and Crimea — and recognizes that Ukraine is an independent, sovereign nation, other countries cannot be secure. Until Russia recommits to a rules-based international order, Western nations are in jeopardy," Taylor said.
Taylor was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009, and returned to the country to serve as chargé d'affaires at the U.S. embassy after then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was abruptly recalled in 2019. Helast fall about his knowledge of the campaign to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump's rivals.
His op-ed comes after NPR host Mary Louise Kelly said Pompeo berated and shouted at her following a contentious interview last week. The interview ended abruptly after Kelly asked Pompeo whether he defended Yovanovitch, who was abruptly recalled from her post after a smear campaign by Trump allies and Ukrainian officials.
Following the interview, Kelly, a co-host of "All Things Considered," said she was brought to speak with Pompeo privately. "Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?" a fuming Pompeo said, according to Kelly.
But Taylor rejected Pompeo's claim and said Americans should care about Ukraine as it is "defending itself and the West against Russian attack."
"To support Ukraine means to support a young democracy, fighting to regain sovereignty over its internationally recognized borders. It is to support a nation that has broken from its troubled past to embrace European and Western values and that seeks to join European and North Atlantic institutions, to defeat post-Soviet corruption, and to give its citizens the chance to prosper in a normal country," he wrote. "To support Ukraine is to support a rules-based international order that enabled major powers in Europe to avoid war for seven decades. It is to support democracy over autocracy. It is to support freedom over freedom. Most Americans do."
A Vietnam War veteran, Taylor spent 50 years in public service before joining the United States Institute of Peace, where he was executive vice president. In May 2019, Pompeo asked Taylor to return to Kiev to replace Yovanovitch.
Taylor testified before the House last year as part of its impeachment investigation into Mr. Trump's dealings with Ukraine. In text messages given to House investigators, Taylor told other diplomats that it would be "crazy" for the U.S. to withhold security assistance to Ukraine in exchange for help with a domestic political campaign, the charge that is at the center of the impeachment efforts involving Mr. Trump.
Taylor also said he learned a member of his staff overheard Mr. Trump asking U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland about "investigations" a day after his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. During that call, the president urged Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Both Taylor and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, who testified together, detailed an effort led by Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump's personal attorney, that they said jeopardized U.S. foreign policy objectives. The two men testified they believed the lifting of the hold on military assistance was conditioned on Ukraine announcing the investigation into Biden and the unsupported theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election.